Certification


Class actions are a very important tool in today’s legal system that helps address the claims of mass tort victims.  Class Actions are also an important tool to combat civil rights violations.  

The adoption of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1938 broadened the scope of the class action suit, providing that cases in law seeking money damages as well as cases in equity could be brought as class actions.  In 1966, the scope of the class action was again clarified and expanded when Rule 23 was amended to provide that unnamed parties to a class action were bound by the final judgment in the action so long as their interests were adequately represented.

USCS Fed Rules Civ Proc R 23(c) deals with certification of class action.  Rule 23 requires the trial court to certify, or approve of, the class before a case can proceed as a class action.  There are various provisions that instruct the court on which factors to consider in determining whether a matter is to be classified as class action or not.  In some cases class certification may require additional discovery in order to determine if the proposed class meets the standard for class certification.  The court’s decision, on the matter of certification is made as early as possible in the litigation.  Such early decision on the question of certification can control the parties’ litigation strategy for the balance of the case. 

Certification orders of the trial court are often targeted for appeal by the parties adversely affected by them.  The challenge to the order is often made without waiting until the end of the litigation since this is often not considered a viable option.  Unhappy litigants often pursue an immediate interlocutory appeal of the class action decision.

Until recently, parties seeking interlocutory relief have had few options.  This was largely because the restraint of the final judgment rule, permitted appeal only at the end of the litigation, and therefore the courts were not very receptive to attempts to appeal interlocutory orders.  Moreover, the exceptions to the final judgment rule that do exist have stringent requirements that restrict their application to a limited set of circumstances.  Thus, it has been extremely difficult for litigants to gain an immediate appeal of a class certification order.  Taking into account these constraints, the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure promulgated an amendment to Rule 23.  This amendment provides litigants an additional means by which to seek an interlocutory appeal.

This provision has the potential to open broad new avenues of interlocutory review of class certification decisions in the federal courts.  The provision relating to class action appeal is contained in USCS Fed Rules Civ Proc R 23.  As per the new rule, the appellate judges now must decide how to decide whether to hear such appeals.